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Help! My Kids are Being Poisoned Against Me

When a marriage breaks up, hard feelings between the spouses often bleed over into their relationships with their children. After all, they are a living, breathing, painful reminder of the end of the marriage. Issues of legal and physical custody, and child support create an ongoing obligation to interact with the very person the divorce is meant to get rid of. In this volatile mix, it’s not always easy to take the high road. Sometimes, the parent isn’t even interested in trying. When this happens, the other parent can feel like they are losing their relationship with their child. 

A Strategy to Modify Custody and Child Support 

Children can become a weapon in an ongoing war between former spouses. When this happens, children can be influenced or even encouraged by one parent to have negative feelings about the other parent. The children then participate in the hostilities by taking sides with one parent over the other. The extreme result of this dynamic are children who refuse to cooperate in custodial arrangements, claiming that they want nothing to do with the other parent. This is then used as a basis to modify physical custody and child support orders to the detriment of the other parent. In Maryland, the family courts will look to the best interests of the child to determine custody and support, but the preferences of the child are an important consideration, so a child who has been encouraged to have animosity towards a parent can influence that parent’s rights. 

Neutralizing a Negative Campaign

A parent can feel helpless when they observe increasing alienation from their children and receive notice that their former spouse plans to use this alienation to reduce or eliminate physical custody and increase support obligations. It is critical to take steps to intervene in this dynamic as soon as possible. Make sure to take careful notes about interactions with children and former spouse to document what is happening. Consider putting the children in therapy and also doing family therapy so that there is a safe space to counter the other parent’s efforts. Finally, confer with a family law attorney with expertise in custodial issues to determine if there are any other steps that can be taken. 

Navigating the Stormy Waters of Courtroom Hearings

In divorce and custody battles, much depends on witness testimony – the spouses, children, family and friends are called in to relay their perspective about the parent-child relationships, often portraying starkly contrasting visions of the situation. Experts can be called in to do assessments, and their opinion is added to the mix. In all of this, a parent’s custodial rights can depend on the credibility of the witnesses, which can be impacted by unrelated issues or courtroom demeanor. With the relationship and financial issues at stake, it is particularly important to work with an experienced family law attorney to put together the best case for a fair outcome. 

A Court Order Can Help

While a child cannot be forced to change their attitude about their parent, minimizing the damage being done to the relationship can be helped with court intervention. Going to Maryland family court for a child custody and support order can force the other parent to stop trying to influence the children or offer requirements like therapy to mitigate the damage. A detailed, thorough custody order can define many aspects of the relationship to smooth out sources of tension. An experienced child custody attorney will know the limits of court authority and help craft proposed language. Losing the love of a child can be devastating, so parents should act quickly to change the course of the relationship.

Malech Law is located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. For more than 25 years, Mr. Malech has provided aggressive and effective representation for his clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This year, he was selected as the Best of Bethesda 2022 Readers’ Pick for Best Family Law Practitioner. He has also been given the Lawyers of Distinction Award Recognizing Excellence in the Area of Divorce and Family Law for the past three consecutive years and has just been recognized as a Family Law Top 10 Attorney for 2021 by “Attorney and Practice Magazine.”

Visit Malechlaw.com or call (202) 441-2107.

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